Thursday, April 30, 2009

Craig Arnold Needs Our Help

Craig Arnold, whose tattoos were featured just last Friday here, has gone missing on an isolated island in Japan.

He needs our help. The Japanese authorities are close to calling off the search, and we need to do what we can by contacting our elected officials in Washington to put pressure on the Japanese government to not give up on finding Craig.

There's more info here.

The Tattooed Poets Project: Wrapping Up National Poetry Month

"Alas, I've done the uninkable"
-Paul Muldoon, February 3, 2009
That was Mr. Muldoon's response to my inquiry, in January, if he was tattooed. I've been wanting to include that somewhere this month, and finally found the spot. Thank you, Mr. Muldoon.

As I wrap up National Poetry Month here on Tattoosday and BillyBlog, it all seems a bit unreal. I spent a good quarter of the year, since mid-January, assembling the host of inked poets that have blessed us with their tattoos over the last month.

And there is more to come. There's a dozen or so poets who expressed interest, but never came through with photos. I continue to receive submissions from poets who have wanted to share, acknowledging that the deadline has passed.

I invite all of you who may have just been checking in on the poets' tattoos to return and visit often. Tattoosday is dedicated to presenting the most interesting tattoos it can find on the streets of New York. Note that I say "interesting," rather than "best". For, sometimes, a simple tattoo is anything but- the story beneath the layer of skin that the ink permeates is often more fascinating than the design itself. I want to thank everyone who helped contribute to the success of the Tattooed Poets Project.

First and foremost, Stacey Harwood at the Best American Poetry blog. Stacey was enthusiastic about the concept from the get-go, and her call for submissions on the BAP blog was a sign of legitimacy that I'm sure convinced many poets that the project was worthwhile and above-board. Her inclusion of Tattoosday on the BAP blog was a blessing, and the bit of html code that Stacey taught me will continue to be helpful in the future. I thank Stacey from the bottom of my heart.

Extended from that, I also thank other poets affiliated with the BAP blog: David Lehman, who has been series editor of The Best American Poetry since it's inception in 1988, BAP correspondents Moira Egan and Jill Alexander Essbaum for their support and participation, and Dorianne Laux who, although uninked, set me on a meandering path, introducing me to tattooed
poets who, in turn, introduced me to more tattooed poets, and so forth, and so on.

And of course, I thank all of you, the readers. In the blogosphere, no one can hear you scream and the worst fear of a blogger is that his or her voice goes unheard. Your comments, e-mails, submissions, and even your votes were truly appreciated.

April was our best month ever, in terms of traffic. As of this writing, we are on pace to eclipse the 25,000 hit mark for the month. I offer my thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to stop by.

Sincerely,


Bill Cohen

And now, the final tattooed poet for the month! Enjoy.....

The Tattooed Poets Project: A Hand for Joy Harjo


Our last tattoo for National Poetry Month comes to us from the wonderful poet Joy Harjo.

I was surprised, to be honest, when Joy agreed to participate, because she seemed so busy. Despite the exchange of messages from her, aside from her permission to be a part of the project, I didn't get a lot of detail about the piece she offered. Fortunately for me and, by extension, Tattoosday readers, she has a website and an explanation about the tattoo there. I am reprinting it here:

The tattoo on my hand is a tattoo. It’s not henna. The style is from the Marquesas Islands. The Marquesas are north of Tahiti.
Roonui, a Tahitian artist, did the tattoo freehand in Moorea, Tahiti. He is now living in Canada. It took two-and-a-half hours. (And yes, it hurt.)
I’d seen the tattoo there on my hand for sometime. The tattoo represents assistance for my work. I use my hands for music, writing, and everything else I do. The tattoo reminds me of the levels of assistance. I am also carrying a beautiful piece of art with me wherever I go.
Roonui says: "Polynesian tattooing is not a simple exercise in aesthetics. Polynesian carve into their body the symbols of their actions (past present or future), their promises, their games."
The part inside my wrist, close to my heart, resembles ancestral designs of my tribal people.
I encourage readers to explore Joy's website (linked above) and to head over to BillyBlog to read one of her poems here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Eileen Myles - "Poet, Take My Measure"

For this, our penultimate post in the April Tattooed Poets Series, we present a tattoo from Eileen Myles.

Last week Thursday, I met Eileen on my lunch break at a Starbucks in Union Square. For a blog based on meeting people with tattoos, it was refreshing to sit and chat with a poet in person. It was only the second face-to-face meeting with tattooed poets. All others have been based on e-mail submissions.

Eileen is a fixture in the New York poetry scene, and has been a resident here since the early 1970's. She's also the first poet featured who I've actually heard read, so I felt like I was re-meeting with an old acquaintance.

Eileen has three tattoos, and I opted to talk to her about the one on the inside of her left bicep:


Eileen explained that she got this tattoo back in 2001 (before 9/11 - which led to a whole other conversation). The phrase is a quote from Dante's Inferno (translated by Robert Pinsky), the first part of The Divine Comedy.

In the Italian, the lines are:

"Io cominciai: "Poeta che mi guidi,
guarda la mia virtù s'ell' è possente,

prima ch'a l'
alto passo tu mi fidi."

Dante Alighieri, Inferno, II. 10-12


Or, as translated by Mr. Pinsky:

"I commenced: "Poet, take my measure now:

Appraise my powers before you trust me to venture

Through that deep passage where you would be my guide."

Robert Pinsky, The Inferno of Dante, II. 9-11


Eileen got this line of poetry tattooed as a signpost for her embarking on a novel called The Inferno: A Poet's Novel.


The lines from the original work by Dante are spoken by Dante to the poet Virgil, checking to see if he can handle the journey on which he is about to embark.

Writing as a woman, she draws a parallel to the inferno of Hell with the life of a female poet.

This tattoo was inked by Stephanie Tamez at Porcupine Tattoo on the Lower East Side. Both Stephanie and Porcupine have moved, Stephanie to New York Adorned, and Porcupine from the Lower East Side to Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Thanks to Eileen for sharing this tattoo with us here at Tattoosday!

Please head over to BillyBlog to see one of her poems here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Meredith S's Interpretation of a Russian Prison Tattoo

As the end of National Poetry Month approaches, I find myself in an enviable position: too many poets' tattoos, too few days. So, I've decided to "double up" and make today a "Two for Tattoosday". I have also realized that this Tattooed Poets Series will have to continue, in one form or another, above and beyond National Poetry Month. Stay tuned for more details.

In the mean time, Meredith S., a poet from Brooklyn, sent in the following photo:


I know, I know, you can't see the whole piece in that shot, but it's pretty cool, and you can get some detail on the sparrow. Here's a more traditional shot:


Meredith explains:
"I happen to love tattoos as a intimately personal expression of ourselves...

[This] ... is an interpretation of a Russian prison tattoo that families and lovers got when they were separated by prisons and Stalin's concentration camps. The tattoo is a traditional pair of swallows holding a three-piece banner with the Russian acronyms: tomsk (a city in Russia); vino (wine); omyt (whirlpool). The acronyms stand for: you alone have my heart; come back and stay forever; it is hard to leave me.

Alex McWatt at Three Kings Tattoo did an amazing job at putting all the elements together. I decided to get this tattoo after losing most of my family members, but mainly after my mother, who is a drug addict, disappeared from my life 5 years ago."
Meredith also submitted a poem about her mother that she composed after seeing a prison mugshot of her a couple of years ago. That poem is posted here on BillyBlog.

Alex McWatt has had work appearing before on Tattoosday, here.

The Tattooed Poets Project: Ruth Kohtz Shares a Poema

Today's tattoo comes from Ruth Kohtz:


Ruth explains:

I got the "poema" tattoo on my birthday, November 9, in 2007, by Nik Lensing at Fluid Ink in St. Paul, Minnesota. I made the appointment about 2 hours before I got it, and I had the design all printed out already.

I had been out of college for about six months and was struggling with lots of existential "what am I doing?" kind of stuff. I have spoken Spanish and written poetry for several years, and the word "poema" ("poem") expresses that I am writing my own life into existence - there's no one way a life has to be. It's a poem.

And I got it on the back of my neck so I wouldn't have to work a job where I couldn't have a tattoo on the back of my neck. Someday I'm going to get "Ruth-less" across my knuckles...

I also have a small blue star on the inside of my right arm because it is said that poet Dorothy Parker (of the Algonquin Round Table in the 1930s) had a similar tattoo back when it was not quite so popular...
Thanks to Ruth for sharing her tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Please head over to BillyBlog here to see her performing one of her poems.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: My First Tattoo

I'm going to be a greedy little poet/blogger today and share one of my tattoos (and a tattoo-themed sestina on BillyBlog). We're in our final week of National Poetry Month, and I thought it would be a good time to hop on the bandwagon.

I was hoping to post a tattoo that I've recently had done, but the artist has respectfully requested that I wait to post it until after it has been fully completed.

So we'll head back to 2003 and my first tattoo, on my right bicep:


Back then, I was not so involved in tattooing, and I didn't really understand the process. I thought you just went to a shop, picked some flash, and had it inked. Had I known then what I know now, I may have approached the experience a little differently.

The first tattoo is a representation of my oldest daughter, Jolee. She has a Hawaiian middle name, "Lineka," which one English-Hawaiian, Hawaiian-English dictionary told me means "lynx". Not that there are any lynx roaming around Honolulu, but she certainly has the personality and beauty of a lynx, and it just seemed right.

A tattoo artist named "Sickie," who was working out of Body Arts Studio in Bay Ridge, took the flash, modified it by removing all the extraneous bamboo and other background art, and created this version of the wildcat.

He was very proud of himself over the way the eyes came out. I tend to agree. They're pretty cool. Lest you think my younger daughter feel left out, she is also represented on me in the form of a tattoo, previously posted here.

Thanks for indulging me. Now head on over to BillyBlog and read my sestina.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Claire Askew's Two Naomis

Today's tattoos come from Claire Askew, a poet and editor who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland:


Claire explains:

My tattoo was inked by Roberto Seifert, who works out of Herzblut Tattoo in Leipzig, Germany. However, he tattooed me while doing a guest-stint at the fantastic Tattoo Zoo (run by Gerry Kramer) in Victoria, Canada. It was summer 2008 and I originally went into the parlour with my boyfriend, who was getting his second piece of Tattoo Zoo ink. Seeing the place and talking with the artists, I decided I also wanted to be tattooed there, and took the plunge -- this was my first tattoo.

The design is based on part of a painting by Alan Aldridge, most famous for his Beatles sleeve art and illustrations. I like the sleeping faces because they're innocent, but because they're inside flowers there's also something slightly sinister about them, like Venus Fly Traps. Roberto worked on them a fair bit before inking them, and the two are ever so slightly different from one another -- one looks very pure and sweet


while the other looks more menacing, like she's plotting something.

I have a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character so this really seems to fit.

I am planning to expand this into a full chest piece in time, although currently I am enjoying their delicacy and sparseness. I've nicknamed them the Naomis -- when I had them done, I had just finished an academic dissertation on the poet Allen Ginsberg, and had become fascinated by his mother Naomi, an amazing woman, but a sufferer of paranoid schizophrenia. Perhaps fittingly, they got her name.
Thanks to Claire for sharing her tattoos with us here on Tattoosday.

Please head over to BillyBlog to read one of her poems here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Rachel McKibbens' Bookish Knuckle Tattoos

Today's tattoos were submitted by Rachel McKibbens, who knows, among others, Cheryl, whose beautiful tattoo, appeared here previously. These are, in fact, the first knuckle tattoos appearing on the Tattooed Poets Project:


Rachel, who is almost fully-sleeved, writes:

I got this tattoo on April 30th, 2006, at the True Blue Tattoo studio while visiting Austin, TX. [Work from True Blue has appeared on Tattoosday twice before, click here to see]. The artist was Jon Reed. Next to my "ditches" [the inner elbows] this was the most painful tattoo I've gotten to date. I was running out of space on my arms and decided to finally go balls out and get my knuckles done. I was initially going to get " a s d f j k l ; " to represent the home keys of a typewriter, but I realized, since it would have to be upside down and backwards, it wouldn't match up with the actual fingers that rested on them.

At the time, I was teaching poetry at Bellevue Hospital, and I was always encouraging my kids to read. I would give them the books off my shelves, go to The Strand and buy in bulk, etc. I needed them to feel like they weren't confined to the hospital or their group home. One of the writing exercises was to have them come up with my knuckle tatts - two four-letter words that weren't dirty. They came up with some doozies, but nothing that really fit.

I finally came upon "book worm" after my friend Leah's boyfriend suggested it. It was such a logical choice, but the two words never came to me in the months I was searching. It is one of my favorite tattoos. And it's the first thing people see (besides the teardrop below my eye) and, since knuckle tatts have come to have this "tough guy" persona, people always laugh when they see it.
If you like knuckle tattoos, I encourage people to visit Knuckletattoos.com, where I occasionally contribute a piece I've spotted in New York. I would have sent Rachel there, but they posted a Book Worm tattoo knuckle piece here.

Thanks to Rachel for submitting these here.

Please head over to BillyBlog to read one of her poems here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Craig Arnold - Ἔρως and ψυχή

Today's tattoos come to us from Craig Arnold, who I found by way of J.D. McClatchy (who is un-inked, but suggested I contact Craig).

He sent these to me from Yakushima in Japan, which, according to Craig, "has lots of Princess Mononoke landscapes but very little internet/phone service".

Craig has two Greek words inscribed on his arms:


Craig explains:

"Both are Greek words: the right arm (Ἔρως) is eros, the left arm (ψυχή) is psyche. They were acquired almost exactly a year apart from each other, right arm in August 2003, left in 2004, both at Lost Art Tattoo in Salt Lake City, Utah. I believe the artist was Dean ... He designed the lettering.

In retrospect there's maybe not much of a story here, but I'll tell what there is of it.

That summer, my then-partner and I were in the early stages of splitting up, after many years together. It used to be -- maybe it still is, in some quarters -- that people got tattoos together at the start of a relationship, to express the beginning of a shared enterprise. But we were never much for going about things in the right order. So, we got tattoos together as the end approached, to remind us of our "irreconcilable differences." On my right arm I got eros -- desire, especially sexual, libido, profane love, but also creation; I think of Whitman's 'urge and urge and urge, / Always the procreant urge of the world.' And on her left, she has agape -- I suppose you could call it divine love, Christian or selfless love, unconditional love,

After a while, though, Eros got lonely and acquired a Psyche. In Greek, psyche can mean many things -- breath or life, spirit, soul, mind and self (thus, psychology). In some parts of Greece it's still used to mean butterfly. But Psyche is also the human girl who falls in love with the god Eros, in the fairy-tale that Apuleius tells in The Golden Ass, one of the earliest versions of Beauty & the Beast. The story is about what comes between them and how they finally succeed in getting back together; I think of it as one of the foundational myths, an allegory for the ways in which Desire and Will depend on and fulfill each other."
Thanks to Craig for sharing his tattoos with us here on Tattoosday. To read one of Craig's poems, please hop on over to BillyBlog here.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Presents A Bat from Jersey and a Honeymoon Memento

Today's tattoos are presented by the poet Guy LeCharles Gonzalez.

The first one is a bat:


Guy explains:

"I got the first tattoo, a stylized bat, back in 1995 somewhere in New Jersey; Toms River, maybe? I'd resisted the urge to get one while I was on active duty in the Army, not wanting something stereotypical that I'd hate or regret a few years later, but a friend of mine had finally psyched herself up, and convinced me and another friend to head down to the Jersey Shore and do the deed as a group. Before we got to the Shore, which seemed much further away than we thought it was, we passed a small tattoo parlor on the side of the road and decided to go there instead. Batman has always been my favorite superhero, appealing on a number of levels, but I figured the logo would be too cheesy for a tattoo, and picked out a bat from the artist's sketchbook, tweaked it a little bit, and voila! I still love it to this day."

The second tattoo Guy sent was this:


Guy continues:

"I got the second tattoo, a pseudo-tribal band with my wife's name in the middle, on the second-to-last day of our honeymoon in Cancun in July 1998. There was a tattoo parlor in one of the flea market/shopping districts up near the elbow of the strip that seemed pretty clean -- despite the handful of teenagers getting tattoos they would certainly regret a few years later -- and against our better judgment, we both decided to get our second tattoos, each incorporating the other's name. We'll celebrate our 11th anniversary this summer, and before then we both intend to have those tattoos tweaked; I'd like mine to be bigger and have more of a Mayan flavor to
it as I've always felt a connection to that culture, even before our trips to the Yucatan."
Thanks to Guy for sharing these tattoos with us here on Tattoosday!

Please head over to BillyBlog and check out one of his poems here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Cody Todd's Murals - Star Wars and an Interpretive Tribal

Today's tattoos come from Cody Todd, who was referred to me by Carol Muske-Dukes:

The first one is a back piece, still in progress:


Cody explains this as "a Star Wars mural--the Millenium Falcon in front of a meteor pursued by a TIE Fighter, from The Empire Strikes Back with the specter of Boba Fett looming above the chase." He credits an artist named Skip (since retired) at Old World Tattoo in Arvada, Colorado (North Denver). This was primarily done in 1996.

Cody expands on the piece:

...the one on my back is still in progress--I foresee at least 5-6 more sessions and touch-ups before I can say it is certainly complete. I like visual collages and pastiche, just as I like the poetic collage of Eliot's Prufrock and The Waste Land, Marianne Moore's Poetry, or Frank Stanford's "The Battlefield where the Moon Says I Love You" and Joshua Clover's The Totality for Kids, are other examples. Poetry that synthesizes subject matter, speaking voices, speaking subjects, and stitch together otherwise independent and unlike things--unified by the mode of collage.

Why a Star Wars tattoo? Well, I guess I buy the argument lent forth in Joseph Campbell's The Hero with A Thousand Faces, that the mythical embodiments of the epic, the quest, and the hero are not just culturally shared, but I think each generation has their own embodiment as well. Hokey, cheesy, and melodramatic --yes, but I still watch Empire... with great nostalgia, and I don't think enough credit goes to [George] Lucas and his literary homage paid to Aquinas, Emerson, Plato, and Homer, to name a few. However, the revisions of Star Wars Episodes 1-3 are so bad I cannot watch them without getting sick. Maybe I am old now, but I just don't get them at all. Nevertheless, my parents still joke about the fact that I was conceived in the backseat of a Ford Pinto while they were "watching" Star Wars at a south Denver drive-in in the summer of 77."

The second piece is a "tribal-esque mural," of sorts, and was tattooed by a friend of Cody's named Bryan in 1997, at Your Flesh Grappling (now known as Your Flesh Tattoo) in Durango, Colorado. This piece was drawn by Cody and wraps around his left thigh:

Cody added:

"The leg tattoo was a personalized redefinition of the "Tribal" tattoos that were the craze when tattoos were no longer isolated to deviancy. Loosely quoting Mike Ness of Social Distortion, in the 1990's, kids could go to a mall and get their little "parts" pierced or walk out of there with a barbed wire tribal band around their biceps. I took a one-page graffiti collage from a notebook that I penciled of hooks, circles, ovoids, anemone-shaped and flame-shaped patterns with tentacles--my first name is actually on the upper left, and a small skyline of Denver with that wacky cash-register shaped building [The Wells Fargo Center] is just 1:00 o'clock from the family of bubbles or spheres centered in the band. I am going to amend this tat with another piece of similar solid black-ink graffiti to wrap a 4-inch band around my knee. That is the thing about tattoos--they are addictive; they beg to grow new limbs, and in that sense they are like little monsters."
I've been posting the tattooed poets' work over on BillyBlog and you can check out not one, but two of Cody's poems here. One is called "Boba Fett". But, as an added treat, I'm including one here, as well, because it just seemed appropriate:

Tattooed on the Backs of Eight Fireflies:

Under a dark loam of night,

pure barbed wire.

*

Apparitions dancing

dancing and dancing.

*

Some of us just might bite

the apple those cursed birds already did.

*

Old story: cat bats us away

to reanimate or destroy.

*

Words are the ruse, flight

is the guise, and we are the fakers.

*

Return the favor: grace for

sex or salvation for dust.

*

Time is the knife. Gods the size

of thumbs. Men with bloody hands.

    *

We captured our god, the sun,

and feasted on him by torchlight.


Thanks to Cody for not only sharing his tattoos with us here on Tattoosday, but for expounding on them at such length. It's always fascinating to hear people go beyond the literal meanings of the tattoos themselves, and explore the deeper significance of the art form as it pertains to themselves and society.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Dese'Rae Stage and Some Poetic Tulips

Last Wednesday (April 15), I was trying to distract myself from having my back tattooed, when my BlackBerry chirped and I found a wonderful e-mail in my inbox. A poet and photographer named Dese'Rae Stage had graced me with some photos of a few of her fifteen tattoos. What follows is my favorite of those pieces:

The first piece is based on Sylvia Plath's poem "Tulips":


The poem is below, with the lines extracted for the tattoo highlighted:

TULIPS
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anaesthetist and my body to surgeons.

They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.

My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage ----
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.

I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat
Stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.

I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free ----
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.

The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their colour,
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself.
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.

Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.
They concentrate my attention, that was happy
Playing and resting without committing itself.

The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.

Dese'Rae explains the background of this tattoo:

"The interpretation is literal enough: it's a poem about suicide and I'd recently tried to commit suicide (I got the piece done back in November 2006 and the summer prior was particularly difficult). One of my oldest friends, Ryan Falcon, just happens to be a talented artist, so I took him a tiny line drawing of some tulips and a copy of the poem with the selected lines highlighted and told him to go to it. The only stencil he used was for the words. He drew a rough outline of the bulbs, but everyth ing else was free-handed. This piece is on my inner left calf."

For the sake of brevity, I am only posting this one tattoo, of the five Dese'Rae sent me. It is, in my opinion, the best of the tattoos she sent me. However, I may post more in the future, with her permission.

It should be noted that the artist behind this tattoo, the aforementioned Ryan Falcon, is based in Miami, Florida and works at Almost Famous Tattoo. Truly spectacular, and worth a second look:


Thanks to Dese'Rae for sharing her amazing tattoo with us here on Tattoosday, as well as sharing the deeply personal story that accompanies it.

Head over to BillyBlog to read one of her poems here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Moira Egan's Literary Ink, A Little Bit of Ireland, All the Way from Rome

Today's tattoo comes to us from across the Atlantic, contributed by Moira Egan, a poet living in Rome, Italy:



Hers is a literary tattoo. Moira reports, it's:

"A page corner from the Book of Kells (an illuminated manuscript that's housed in Trinity College, Dublin), in this version, housed a couple of inches below my left clavicle. Little Vinnie of Little Vinnie's Tattoos in Maryland is the artist, and this was done on Memorial Day of 1993. In fact, Vinnie was kind enough to open the shop that day for me and my brother and a friend. A good way to Memorialize a day."

Moira added, "since I'm Irish-American, and a writer, well it seemed appropriate".

Indeed, please check out one of Moira's poems, both in English and Italian, over on BillyBlog.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Adam Deutsch's Miltonic Tattoos

Today's tattoos come from Adam Deutsch. We started with this photo:

Photo taken by Lillian Bertram.

A cool photo, and Adam explained the piece:
It's based on a Gustave Doré etching from his interpretations of Milton's Paradise Lost, the lines "He the Almighty Power/ Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky" (I. 44-45) when Lucifer is waging war, before the fall to Hell.


White ink is incorporated in the rain, and on the halo over his head, as he's still an Angel. We've all got something we turn to over and over again; Paradise Lost is always there.
The tattoo was done at Lark Tattoo in Westbury, New York. The artist was Sunday Dawne-Marie.

Despite the awesome nature of this tattoo, I pressed Adam for something more, as it's a bit hard to make out the images of the tattoo in the photo, and I really want to showcase the work.

Our discussion progressed and Adam ended up sending me photos of his leg piece, as well.




Adam points out that this piece, on his right leg, is based on the depiction of Pandemonium, also from Paradise Lost. This is the mock-cathedral in Hell where the fallen angels meet to decide what is next on their agenda:
Mean while the winged Haralds by command
Of Sovran power, with awful Ceremony
And Trumpets sound throughout the Host proclaim
A solemn Councel forthwith to be held
At PandÆmonium, the high Capital
Of Satan and his Peers (lines 752-757)
The detail in the piece is phenomenal:


Adam notes that the two tattoos, both on the right side of his body, "talk to each other....it's a conversation between an angel & devil". He adds that, "in that context, my arm becomes Elijah, fallen, but re-risen."

The arm took about two hours to complete, but the leg took approximately ten hours, in two sittings of four and six hours, respectively, about a month and a half apart. The two pieces seen here are among four "literary" tattoos Adam has. He also has a whole sleeve based on Emerson.

Head over to BillyBlog to check out one of Adam's poems here.

Thanks to Adam for sharing his amazing work with us here on Tattoosday, with a special thanks to Jill Alexander Essbaum (whose literary feet kicked off the Tattooed Poets Project here) for sending Adam our way!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Rachel Mallino's Vine Entwines

Today's tattoo is from Rachel Mallino:





Rachel explains this tattoo:


"This piece was done in the summer of 2001, on a vacation to New York City. A friend and I were walking the Village together and I decided to stop at a random tattoo parlor- unfortunately, the name of the parlor escapes me. I had been playing around with the idea of getting a tattoo on my foot for several reasons, one of them being that the foot was not a popular place to have a tattoo at the time. I wanted something like a vine that symbolized my very unhealthy relationship with my mother, a subject I also write a lot about. I didn’t have anything sketched out, so I approached one of the artists and told her what I wanted. She was able to find a ready-made outline of a vine that looked similar to what I had imagined. I told her to use the outline but directed her in which direction and how I wanted the tat to wrap around my middle toe, up the foot and around my ankle. For the record: it was really painful. Artistically, I don’t think the tattoo is spectacular. Conceptually, I’m pretty pleased. People ask me all the time what it means, and I never tell them. In fact, I haven’t really told you, either."



Thanks to Rachel for sending us this tattoo.

Please head over to BillyBlog to read one of Rachel's poems here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Raffaella Ciavatta's Trio of Amazing Tattoos

Today's tattoos were submitted by Brazilian-born, New York-based poet Raffaella Ciavatta. She heard about the Tattooed Poet's Project earlier this month from Jackie Sheeler at a local reading. Jackie's tattoos were featured earlier this month here.

Raffaela sent three photos:


Raffaela says that this is "my own design mixing a Chinese dragon, representing strength, and the lizard, for the soul's search of awareness, so that it could protect me and guide me through the eternal pursuit of knowledge."

This piece on the lower left side of her back/hip was her first tattoo, done at Studio Tat 2 in Brazil.

Next is a piece on the right side of her chest, near the collar bone:



The "mater" is the Latin word for mother who, Raffaella proclaims is "
done for the most important person to me in this world, my mother, father, best friend!" This piece was inked at Fabio Tattoo, also in Brazil.

And finally, this last tattoo, which you get a small glimpse of in the first picture above, is just breath-taking:


These are her angel wings, "done to achieve my dream of reaching New York." She adds, "I definitely flew from Brazil to NY." They were tattooed over six months. The tattoo was started by Eric Codo ("just the outline...he had to move to Rio de Janeiro) at Steel Star Supply in Sao Paulo and was finished by the "Amazing Fabio Renato".

Head over to BillyBlog to read one of Raffaella's poems.

Thanks to Raffaella for sharing her amazing work with us here at Tattoosday!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Nathan Logan's Tattoo Punctuates the Flesh

Today's tattoo was generously donated by Nathan Logan, who presents a tattoo on his left arm:


Nathan explains:

This tattoo was a gift to myself for getting into graduate school. I wanted to get a line of poetry, but the options overwhelmed me. I couldn't decide. So after giving it some thought, I chose my favorite punctuation mark, which can be found in many lovely poems and pieces of prose. I think it covers all the bases. It was done in April 2007 by Nate Harmon at Ground Zero in Muncie, Indiana [now known as 111 Arts Gallery and Tattoo Studio].
Please check out one of Nathan's poems over on BillyBlog here.

Thanks to Nathan for sharing his semi-colon tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Todd Heldt's Chicago Owl

Today's tattoo was submitted by the poet Todd Heldt:


This is on his right bicep and is based on one of his favorite Chicago landmarks, the owl perched on the Harold Washington Library, the central library for the Chicago Public Library system.


The owl is often used as a symbol to represent knowledge.

The tattoo was created by Esther Garcia at Butterfat Studios in Chicago.

Please head over to BillyBlog to read one of Todd's poems.

And, if you like owls, you must check out a blog dedicated entirely to owl tattoos here.

Thanks to Todd for sharing his tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Anthony's Skate and Destroy Tattoo

Just a brief note...despite the Tattooed Poets Project for National Poetry Month, I still plan on spotting ink on the streets of New York, and posting it here. This is one of those posts....

I ran into Anthony outside of Madison Square Garden on Thursday, April 9, during the lunch hour.

He is a skateboarder with four tattoos, the most visible of which curves around his inner right forearm:


This tattoo features the pentagram logo for Thrasher magazine, a periodical devoted to the skateboarding lifestyle.


He added the "Skate and Destroy" text to the banner below the design, as it is a popular creed among skaters, and graces some Thrasher merchandise:


Anthony, who has been skateboarding for nine years, had this tattoo inked to commemorate his passion for the sport. The piece was created at Addicted to Ink in White Plains, New York and tattooed by Mike.

Thanks to Anthony for sharing his tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Cheryl Maddalena's Beautiful Tattoo


Today's Tattooed Poet is Cheryl Maddalena. Cheryl is a performance poet from Boise, Idaho.

Although the photo above is small, the tattoo is big, bold and beautiful.

Cheryl writes:

"It had occurred to me, as a performance poet, that I could never read other poets' tattoos from the audience. Mine is 200 point lowercase Times New Roman, the same font as all my poetry but a larger size."

The tattoo was done by Sean Wyett at Black Cat Tattoo & Piercing in Boise.

For a poem by Cheryl, not coincidentally titled Why I got the word “beautiful” tattooed on my arm in 200 point lowercase Times New Roman, head over to BillyBlog here. There's also a clip up of Cheryl performing.

Thanks to Cheryl for sending us her amazing tattoo!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Mike Sikkema's Tattoo Blends Natural with Mechanical

Today's tattooed poet is Mike Sikkema, a friend of Gina Myers (whose tattoo appeared here), who sent him my way. His piece is not fully completed, but it is still completely interesting:


















Mike explains the piece:

Eva Huber began my birds at Divine Machine Tattoo in Buffalo, NY, in the fall of 2008. The combination of real and chrome apples, of real and mechanical birds points at where we’re at: the age of remote controlled spy beetles and “vegetarian” meat made from cloned cells.

The apples and particular types of birds also point to my birthplace, northern Michigan. Another fully robotic bird, as well as a musical staff are on the way.

On a side note, Eva Huber appears to now be tattooing at Off the Map Tattoo in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Mike didn't mention this, but the but his mechanical bird reminded me a lot of Haruki Murakami's wonderful novel The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.


Thanks to Mike for sharing his tattoo with us here on Tattoosday. Please head over to BillyBlog to read one of his poems.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Rebecca Loudon's Bee Tattoo

The following tattoo was submitted by the poet Rebecca Loudon:


The tattoo was inspired by her favorite poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by William Butler Yeats:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.


Rebecca adds that she will include the last two lines of the first stanza will be added "one of these days". The tattoo is on her right calf.

Rebecca added:

This tattoo was done by Tracy Zumwalt in Seattle, in December of 2008, shortly after my book Cadaver Dogs was published. Tracy used to work at Anchor Tattoo in Seattle, but now works privately by appointment only.

I have other tattoos, but I had been talking about the bee tattoo for 20 years. I was waiting for something, something to celebrated, something to mark. Bees have always been my totem animal and they are prominent in all my writing. Once the book was complete, I knew it was time. I wanted the tattoo to be a scientific rendering but I let Tracy do the artwork. The bee is on the outside of my right calf. The photo isn’t very good because it isn’t really a photo. I just put my leg on my scanner because I don’t own a camera. You can still see Tracy’s fine work in the scan though."

Rebecca Loudon lives and writes in Seattle. She is the author of 4 books of poetry, the latest being Cadaver Dogs from No Tell Books, several lyrics for songs for chamber orchestra and choir, and the libretto of a full length opera, Red Queen. She is a professional violinist and teaches violin to children. She has more than 6 and less than 10 tattoos. She practices writing at http://radishking.blogspot.com/

Head over to BillyBlog to read one of her poems.

Thanks to Rebecca for her participation in the Tattooed Poet's Project!

A Bonus: click here to listen to William Butler Yeats reading the poem that inspired this tattoo!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Malaika King Albrecht Shares Her "Unambitious," Yet Meaningful, Tattoo

Today's tattoo was submitted by Malaika King Albrecht:


I contacted Malaika on Facebook when I saw her profile photo, and that she had a visible tattoo. She was kind enough to not only accept my friend request, but also to submit the photo above, along with one of her poems, over on BillyBlog.

Malaika filled me in on this piece:

I may have gotten this tattoo, my second one, at Shaw’s [Tattoo Studio] where I got my first tattoo. I was probably on Westheimer Blvd., was definitely in Houston sometime in the mid-80’s and was most likely in the good company of a guy named Nicki Sicki. The image is of a person meditating with wings and a heart, and is borrowed from Ram Dass’ book Be Here Now. The sideways 8 represents sitting in lotus position and is also the symbol of infinity. Though the heart has lost its red color, and the tattoo is an admittedly unambitious one, the image still resonates with me.
I love Malaika's modesty about the tattoo. Admittedly, it is not "spectacular," but tattoos do not have to be huge, multi-colored affairs in order to have significance for those that have them.

Thanks to Malaika for sharing her tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Please visit BillyBlog to read one of her poems here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Jackie Sheeler's Swirling Tribal Tattoos

Today's tattooed poet is Jackie Sheeler. The photos she sent me were taken by one of her friend's daughters, who utilized Jackie as one of her subjects in a photography project about tattooed New Yorkers.

Jackie explains:

"I have just two pieces, if by “piece” you mean connected & thematic. I didn’t get them all at once, though.

The big one on my left shoulder was done all at once by an artist named Carlos Alfonso at the 23rd street tattoo shop [Rising Dragon Tattoos]. I told him I wanted a “wing”, and pointed out about half a dozen pieces of flash that were kinda-sorta but not quite what I wanted. he told me to come back in a week, and he had created the amazing design that you see.






The tattoo on the right has come about in stages.


The first bit is the somewhat intricate tribal abstraction on the top back of the shoulder. I got that one around 1993, when tribal was just starting to become popular, and it’s a funny story.

I went to an illegal flash parlor in Brooklyn [tattooing in New York City was illegal until 1997], a basement filled with all guys except for me, and just one artist, a big old guy named Tony, who looked like somebody you’d meet on The Jackie Gleason Show. I had a copy of a tribal piece that I’d Xeroxed out of a tattoo magazine, and I told him I wanted that only bigger. He seemed pretty shocked – “you want THAT?” – and said sure he’d do it for $60, which was a lot cheaper than I’d expected. He ran it through that mimeo machine or whatever it is that they use, enlarged it and stenciled it onto me...

...But then I had to wait. Why? Because a drug dealer came in with his falling-down drunk girlfriend, gold teeth, handfuls of cash, and a gun pretty obviously stuck in his waistband, and needed immediate service. His girlfriend was getting a tattoo “for him." He picked out the flash – a big, ugly bulldog, snarling and all – and had Tony put it on the girl’s abdomen. It was pretty horrible. She was gorgeous, and I knew how she was going to feel when she woke up with a hangover and THAT on her belly. Anyway, my turn was next and tony got the piece done in like half an hour.

I didn’t get another tattoo for 9 years, which is when I got the big one that Carlos did on my left shoulder.


I went back to Carlos (by then he was working at MacDougal Street Tattoo Company [since closed] ... in 2004 and got my “wing and a prayer” tattoo, which is the feathery wing with a peace sign emerging from it that’s just above the crook of my arm. I actually got this piece on July 6, which is George Fucking Bush’s birthday, and I got it in honor of him being about to be thrown out of the White House. (My band also released a single related to that, so it was a big thing for me – though obviously things didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped!) That piece was a standalone for a while, then I went back and asked Carlos to do a few more curlicues up my arm to attach it to the tribal on my shoulder, which he did.

Two years after that, I went back to MacDougal tattoo to get the curlicues extended down to my left wrist, and asked for Carlos. They said he was “no longer practicing” but it was a very strange moment, and the two people at the counter had these looks on their faces. By that time I’d gotten to know Carlos a bit. He was always having girlfriend problems and talking about moving back to Florida, so I asked if he had done that. So sad. No, he had committed suicide a couple months before. He was only 31.

It was very strange for me, all of a sudden my art seemed different. I felt like I was wearing his suicide note, in a way. But that (rather absurd) feeling passed, and I went back to MacDougal in a couple of weeks and had Carlos’ friend, Patrick Conlon, put on the curlicues in Carlos’ style. That session was like in honor and memory of Carlos, and we talked fondly about him while Patrick worked."

Thanks to Jackie Sheeler for sharing her detailed recollections of her tattoo stories.

Please be sure to head over to BillyBlog to read one of her poems here.

You can also read her blog, Get Angry With Me, here, or visit her band, Talk Engine, on MySpace Music here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project: Gina Myers and Her Colorful Gypsy

Today's Tattooed Poet is Gina Myers, who offered up this beautiful traditional gypsy piece:


Gina provided me the following commentary to accompany the tattoo:

"Sharing tattoos in this public forum is a little strange for me. I used to keep my tattoos covered when visiting family or working, and have only recently felt comfortable in the office at my current job letting them show. I tell my friends when I am going to get something new done, and I show them pictures afterward. However, I rarely, if ever, talk about the reason behind the tattoos.

I get tattoos for very personal reasons and the tattoos are for me, not for others. Strangers in public will often ask me about my tattoos or even go as far as touching my arm, moving my hair, or pulling up my shirt sleeve to see my work. What shocks me is that they often do not see anything wrong with their behavior. How often do people walk up behind strangers and rub their arms or ask them intensely personal questions? Someone once actually lifted my friend's skirt to see the tattoo on her thigh that stuck out some below her hemline. It would seem to go
without saying that what is beneath her skirt is not public. A tattoo is not public.

Sometimes when people ask me what a particular tattoo means, I ask them what they think it means. Usually people are able to put together a string of adjectives to which I respond, "That sounds pretty good to me."

I got this tattoo in September 2007 by Chad Koeplinger at Tattoo Paradise in Washington, DC. Chad is from my hometown of Saginaw, Michigan, and we grew up with the same people. I find this important. I kind of believe people who have a lot of tattoos are damaged in some way, and Chad, being from Saginaw, kind of gets my damage with no explanation. In 2006, I got a piece by Chad on the outside of my right arm, a fully-rigged ship, and then this piece, a gypsy, is on the inside of the same arm. To me, the pieces are related. They both represent people. This gypsy represents a particular person but can stand in for many as I have been lucky to have been surrounded by many strong women in my life. When I ask people what they think a gypsy means, aside from the occasional "stealing babies" comment, I often get strong-willed, mischievous, and free-spirited. To which I respond: "Yes, that sounds pretty good."
Thanks to Gina for sharing one of her amazing tattoos with us here at Tattoosday!

Please head over to BillyBlog to read one of Gina's poems.